Saints And Sinners
Rather than this being your run of the mill match report, I want to look at yesterday's game and what it means in the long run i.e. where we need to strengthen the squad this month.
It was a much changed Blackpool team that travelled to League One promotion contenders Southampton; only Neal Eardley and Matt Phillips retained their places in the side from the midweek defeat to Birmingham, with the bench completely made up of youth team players.
Southampton enjoyed the better of the game, creating several chances before Lee Barnard and Guly Do Prado scored in the second half to secure a 2-0 victory for the hosts.
Paul Rachubka made his first appearance in an age after returning from injury. The keeper has been added to the Seasiders' 25 man Premier League squad and got a valuable 90 minutes under his belt yesterday afternoon.
Although he looked as sharp as ever reflexes-wise, he did (as per usual) flap at balls into the box and not come for balls he should have. With Matt Gilks out until around March with a knee injury, it's between Richard Kingson and Rabs for the number one jersey, and as admirably as Kingson has performed, he's looked constantly nervous as well. Perhaps if Gilks does leave the club this month as rumoured then there's an opportunity for Ollie to bring in a really commanding keeper?
In defence, Rob Edwards, Dekel Keinan and Alex Baptiste all got valuable run outs. Arguably the Seasiders have great strength in depth in the centre half positions, but undoubtedly need cover in the full back positions.
With David Carney at the Asia Cup with Australia, Stephen Crainey has no competition at left back whilst we only have Baps to provide Eardley with competition at right back. Arguably, if we could bring another right back in, it would allow us to offload Rob Edwards who very much has question marks hanging over him at Premier League level.
In midfield, Keith Southern and Ludovic Sylvestre got a valuable 90 minutes under their belts. Sylvestre has Charlie Adam's range of passing but plays like David Vaughan, and in my opinion is more than ample cover for boht of those players. With Southern, you get the sense that his injury in the summer has really set him back, but he certainly offers something very different to our other midfielders.
Matt Phillips completed 90 minutes on the flank and looked our most dangerous player throughout. I feel that yesterday will benefit him a lot in the long run as he looks to full make the step up from being an impact player to a regular starter. Undoubtedly though we could do with more options on the flanks with pace - after all, as Ollie says in The Independent today, some of our players are looking a little 'stale'.
Brett Ormerod and Jason Euell made returns to St. Mary's yesterday will Brett cheered and Euelly booed. Brett's not the player he was, but you always know that he'll give 110% and that could be invaluable in the run-in. He also has the knack of scoring key goals for us. Euell however is simply not up to standard. He did a job at times for us last season but looks like a fish out of water this season. Even if Ollie wants him as a coach in he long term, he needs to be given his marching orders in the short term.
The fact that Euell played the full 90 yesterday and the only striking option on the bench was Tom Barkhuizen shows that we also need to dip into the market for out and out strikers. Marlon Harewood is nearing full fitness, but arguably he's the only proper cover we have for DJ Campbell.
Ollie is known to want to strengthen his options in attack like this time last year; hence the bid for Plymouth's Bradley Wright-Phillips (who is on the verge of joining Reading for £300,000). Arguably though, the Seasiders could do with a forward with a bit of presence about him to convert the number of wonderful crosses the like of Eardley and Adam whip in.
Finally, it was great to see some of the youth team players get a run out yesterday. Let's hope that their debuts spur them on to work even harder on the training ground as gawd knows we need an upturn in our ability to turn youth players into full blown professionals.
Liverpool at home next (on Wednesday night); hopefully those first team players who got a rest yesterday will come out all guns blazing and show yesterday's lot how it's really done.